surveillance

Mexico: US spied on former president Calderón

The US National Security Agency (NSA) hacked into the public email accounts of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) and members of his cabinet, according to an Oct. 20 report in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel; the report was based on a secret NSA document leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden. This is the second revelation in less than two months about US spying on a Mexican president. On Sept. 1 Brazil's Globo television network presented other documents leaked by Snowden showing that the NSA intercepted text messages from current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto in June 2012, while he was still running for the presidency. Former president Calderón, a leader in the center-right National Action Party (PAN), was an exceptionally close ally of the US government.

Brazil: documents expose US industrial espionage

On Sept. 8 the "Fantástico" news program on Brazil's Rede Globo television network presented documents indicating that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Brazil's giant semi-public energy company, Petrobras (Petróleo Brasileiro S.A.). The allegations came one week after the same program presented evidence that the NSA had spied on Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. As in the earlier news program, the spying claims were based on documents given to Glenn Greenwald, a US blogger and columnist for the UK daily The Guardian who lives in Brazil, by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden.

US spied on Brazilian and Mexican leaders

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has spied on emails, phone calls and text messages to and from Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, according to NSA documents presented on Brazil's Globo television network on Sept. 1. These documents, like those made public in July about US spying on at least 14 Latin American nations, were given to Glenn Greenwald, a US blogger and columnist for the UK daily The Guardian who lives in Brazil, by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in June. Snowden is now residing in Russia; he says he is unable to comment on the documents because of the terms under which Russian authorities are letting him stay in the country for one year.

Leaks show massive US spying throughout Americas

US intelligence agencies have carried out spying operations on telecommunications in at least 14 Latin American countries, according to a series of articles the Brazilian national daily O Globo began publishing on July 7. Based on classified documents leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden, the articles reported that the main targets were Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. The US also spied "constantly, but with less intensity," on Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela, the newspaper said. Brazil and Colombia, a major US ally, have both officially demanded explanations from the US.

Latin leaders react to blocking of Bolivian flight

In a bizarre and largely unexplained incident, on July 2 several Western European countries denied the use of their airspace to a Bolivian plane carrying the country's president, Evo Morales, home from a gas exporting countries forum in Moscow. The Bolivians made an unscheduled landing in Vienna, where Austrian authorities reportedly inspected the plane with President Morales' permission. After a 13-hour stopover in Vienna, the flight was cleared with the Western European countries and proceeded to La Paz, where it landed late July 3.

Edward Snowden and Ecuador press freedom

Amnesty International has issued a statement protesting the charges brought against Edward Snowden under the US Espionage Act. "No one should be charged under any law for disclosing information of human rights violations by the US government," said Amnesty's international law director Widney Brown. "Such disclosures are protected under the rights to information and freedom of expression." Snowden (now without a valid passport) is apparently at the Moscow airport, awaiting a flight to (depending on the account) Ecuador, Venezuela or Cuba. There is a delicious irony to countries usually portrayed as authoritarian offering refuge while the ostensibly "democratic" United States is thusly chastised. "Regardless of where Snowden ends up he has the right to seek asylum," said Brown. "Even if such a claim failed, no country can return a person to another country where there is a substantial risk of ill-treatment. His forced transfer to the USA would put him at great risk of human rights violations and must be challenged."

ACLU challenges NSA surveillance measures

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in conjunction with the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) filed suit (PDF) June 11 against the National Security Agency (NSA) challenging its recently revealed phone data collection. As a Verizon business network services customer, the ACLU argues that the program violates the rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy as protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The complaint also charges that the program oversteps Congress' authority as outlined in the Patriot Ac. On June 10, the ACLU DC affiliate and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, filed a motion (PDF) with the secret surveillance court that issued the order allowing the data collection. They requested that the court provide a statutory basis of its recent controversial decisions to permit collection of civilians' personal data from private communication companies.

Edward Snowden a hit on Sina Weibo

This is pretty funny. The Wall Street Journal informs us that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been a big hit among freedom-hungry Chinese cyber-cognoscenti. "This is the definition of heroism," wrote one particularly enthusiastic micro-blogger (presumably on Sina Weibo). "Doing this proves he genuinely cares about this country and about his country's citizens. All countries need someone like him!" This is a brilliantly acceptable guise for dissent within China: it places Beijing in the uncomfortable position of either having to tolerate the dissent or implicitly diss a dissident from the rival superpower! We were a little skeptical when Snowden took refuge in Hong Kong, recalling Julian Assange's coziness with authoritarian regimes even as he is glorified as an avatar of freedom. But Beijing will probably see Snowden as too hot a potato, for obvious reasons. "He must be protected," one sharp wit wrote on Sina Weibo. "This is one of the few opportunities the Communist Party has to contribute to world good." (See report at Quartz)

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